Trying to Separate Dissent from Personal Animus

by William Skink

My reasons for maintaining anonymity have evolved over the years. When I first started writing at 4&20 Blackbirds in 2010 I actually didn’t give anonymity much thought. I had commented under a pseudonym and therefore started writing posts under the same pseudonym. As I started experiencing the attacks that come with not adhering to the political binary of Democrat good/Republican bad, and as I started writing about “conspiracy theories”, I felt using a pseudonym allowed me more freedom to write about things that would trigger derision and ridicule.

I don’t worry about derision and ridicule anymore. My concerns are now twofold. Politically, I’m increasingly concerned about what a Nation waging perpetual war across the globe will do with dissenters. Will dissent be conflated with extremism? Will being called a Putin lover be followed with a knock on the door? Across the pond, the UK recently distributed leaflets as part of an “anti-extremism drive”. From the link:

Child protection officials have been criticised after warning parents that young people who take issue with government policy or question what they are told in the media may have been radicalised by extremists.

A leaflet drawn up by an inner-city child safeguarding board warns that “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policies” is a sign “specific to radicalisation”.

Parents and carers have also been advised by the safeguarding children board in the London Borough of Camden that “showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and a belief in conspiracy theories” could be a sign that children are being groomed by extremists.

Seven years ago we were promised a Democratic administration would be more transparent. But, as usual, there is a great disparity between word and action. In practice, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act to aggressively go after the people who are trying to tell us the surveillance state has destroyed our constitutional rights.

Beyond the political concerns I also have personal reasons for maintaining my anonymity. My work puts me in constant contact with unstable individuals. A few years ago I started receiving letters from a mentally ill woman who thinks I’m her kid. The letters first arrived at my workplace. Then, a year ago, they started arriving at my home address. I have since moved, but I still get the letters forwarded to my home. This woman has threatened to take my kids away from me after having me imprisoned for sexually assaulting her.

A few months ago I was physically assaulted by a mentally ill man who threatened to kill me. I believed this threat was legitimate, and so did a judge, who signed off on a permanent order of protection. These threats are exacerbated by systems that are breaking down, specifically our health care system and criminal justice system. It’s bad and getting worse in ways people outside these systems simply can’t understand because those of us within these systems can’t really talk explicitly about what we’re seeing.

I’m not the only one who is burnt out and exhausted by the volume of problems overloading these systems. As our political leaders commission more studies while programs get defunded, the first responders on the front-lines suffer.

Don’t get me wrong, I greatly value the real-world education I’ve received. It was worth all the vicarious trauma I’ve absorbed over the years. I have a better informed understanding of how difficult policing can be, for example, after seeing up close their day-to-day frustrations. I have a lot of sympathy for law enforcement now. If you would have told me seven years ago I would have these sympathies, I would have laughed in your face.

I don’t know if there are political solutions to the immense problems facing this community and this country. I’d like to see Democrats take responsibility for their part in getting us here, but I don’t expect that is possible in our hyper-polarized atmosphere. While I appreciate this olive branch from one partisan, I’m weary of how our years of disagreement is being framed:

I’ve tried, since last night, to negotiate a ceasefire. My argument is pretty simple: it’s clear we cannot persuade each other, and it’s also clear that the history of bad blood between the two sites is so strong that we’re just not capable of seeing each other’s postings as anything other than hostile acts. There are times when relationships become too toxic to continue, even with the best intentions, and silence is most appropriate.

So one more time, publicly, I ask: can we please put this to rest? Can we agree not to write posts about each other’s sites so that both sites can be better places for the people interested in reading what’s written there? I’m willing to do that. If the writers at the other site are not, then I have to give some thought to shutting this blog down because, rightly or wrongly, I worry that the conflict will spill over into my real life. I am a teacher foremost. This is a hobby, a weird one, yes, but a hobby. I can’t afford to jeopardize my career or personal relationships over this.

I’m not sure what I’m being asked not to write about here. “Posts about each other’s sites” seems intentionally vague. When I wrote about the politics of emasculation, it wasn’t a criticism of a site, but a tactic. When I wrote about reality averse partisans on Syria it wasn’t a criticism of the site, but a criticism of uncritically accepting the erroneous media framing of the dynamics in Syria.

I’m not going to stop writing about foreign policy or our corrupt two party political system. I will, however, do my best to avoid using ID posts as examples of the damaging effects of partisanship and the ignorance that ensues from exclusively relying on western propaganda to understand world affairs.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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21 Responses to Trying to Separate Dissent from Personal Animus

  1. Big Swede says:

    Tis the season for self reflection.

  2. Kailey wrote a rather densely worded response over at that ID piece in which he framed the argument as an attempt by some to define what is the left, insinuating and almost totalitarian attitude by us purists, as Talbot might infer. It’s an absurd piece of logic, as the shrinking left has but one or two voices left. In the wake of Obama, they are all right wingers and neocons now, and don’t even know it, are not at all even slightly self-aware. That is the problem.

    It is not that they are harsh and censorious in their efforts, but that they cannot see that they absconded with what little hope there was for a fading ideal, intellectual freedom. They trashed it, made it an extreme notion that we get to use our own brains to figure things out. They stood up on a pedestal (look at the banner at Cowgirl) and proclaimed that warmongering, censorship, surveillance, torture, agitprop and lying are all part of being part of the left, just like the right! There’s really no difference! We’re all one party now, and if any of us don’t like that one party, we’ll be ridiculed and banned.

    Pogie is, as I suspect, hostile and angry, by his own admission. He cannot take the heat, cannot stand criticism, and so has shut down comments. He’s nervous and agitated. His bland “caring about the future” of Montana has no legs under it. It’s vague and meaningless, having only to do with supporting various right wingers who happen to choose the label “Democrat.” It is a pointless existence, pointless writing, almost Orwellian emptiness, a hopeless future.

    It seems, reading him and you and Kailey than I am the only one left who is still having fun. I love the heat of battle, the give and take, and enjoy the hell out of it. I have seen all the others exit, saying it is too agitated, too belittling. Nonsense. It is fun. It is what intelligent and lively people do, and what only a few do really well … Exchange ideas, try to get to the real underlying substance, try to unmask liars and liars.

    • Craig Moore says:

      If you were having fun, as you claim, you wouldn’t be banning people like Swede at your site. Remember when you wrote this:

      “Mark Tokarski

      June 14, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Swede offers necessary contrast to allow excahnge of viewpoints and to force people to examine their own. The idea that a right winger should not post on a leftish blog is an anathema to thinking people. It should be encouraged”

      Were you lying then or is this a more recent development? Or stated another way, why have you defined yourself, through actions of your own making. as an unthinking person?

      • I corralled, rather than banned you and Swede and Kurtz and Kralj. Your comments will appear if it is apparent you’ve actually read the post that you are commenting on, or have something intelligent or unusual to add. But for you to repeat the same shopworn ideas year in and out, never moving an inch forward. got old.

        Look at Swede down below, still saying the same thing about Cuba as nine years ago, and in that time never having opened the cover of a book to actually learn something about it. That’s what I am talking about.

        • Craig Moore says:

          Again with the lies, you did ban us and you said so. And in Swede’s case, you haven’t come to grips with being hoisted on your own petard– “The idea that a right winger should not post on a leftish blog is an anathema to thinking people.” It appears you only wish you were among the learned and intellectual.

          Now, you may try and quibble and set up some sort of screening hurdle going forward, but the fact remains you banned us. When you did so to me, I compared you to Cowgirl’s banning. It matters not whether you have a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. It is your house.

          As you have said to me, you assert that I don’t read your posts from top to bottom. That is really quite a display of arrogant conceit for you not to consider other possibilities. In my case, I have read your posts, completely, and find that 99% of your long-winded diatribes just aren’t worth the effort to return an equally long-winded dissent and refutation. I’m guessing you probably know that and find much embarrassment in your inability to stimulate the desired response and adulation.

        • The matter of banning is covered in the second-to-last paragraph of a recent post. Rather than outright ban, your comments are merely reviewed before posting. That is less harsh.

          If you have read my posts and find them not worth refuting, then having your comments reviewed, since you are not going to offer any, should not be a concern.

        • Craig Moore says:

          Gee Mark, Merry Christmas ya filthy animal. Here’s your new process.

        • You make my point far better than I. Thank you.

  3. Sent from my iPad


  4. steve kelly says:

    Authoritarian-Right thinking dominates our politics, our finance, our economics, our culture. Anyone with opposite, Libertarian-Left leanings in this current environment must choose: Fight or Flight. Flight — the Three Little Pigs’ strategy — has proven to be a failure against “inverted totalitarianism.” The only option remaining is to stand and fight, dissent, revolt until the system is dismantled and its pieces buried. The “middle ground,” “third way,” or whatever the fake-left is calling it these days, is chimera. For those GMOs who can say 2 plus 2 equals 5 with a straight face, there’s no reflection, no turning back.

    • Big Swede says:

      Cuba fought against authoritarian right wingers and now people paddle, float, and swim 90 miles of shark infested waters to escape it.

      • Not very likely. Most often, those people had been placed in boats, the press called in to report on it, just part of American propaganda.

        Haitians, on the other hand, no cameras,no fanfare, just get sent back to tehir capitalist paradise.

  5. steve kelly says:

    Cuba is an authoritarian regime, no? Maybe the paddlers simply prefer authoritarian right to authoritarian left.

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